These days, new artists often try to overwhelm fans with music, trying to capture audiences through pure saturation. But singer-songwriter Jesse Jo Stark has taken the opposite approach, creating an EP and a string of slow singles over the past five years with the intent and precision of someone distributing water in the desert.
That helps the 31-year-old artist have some other goals to fill her time. Stark is part of the Chrome Hearts fashion family and has designed for the brand, in addition to running his own clothing line called Deadly Doll and trying his hand at acting. During that time, she has created a wonderfully creepy musical image, one that feels distinct from the gloom that has pervaded pop music lately.
Suffer, Her first official album was released this week, filled with noir imagery and exuding a charm. In hit songs like “So Bad,” which features close friend and Stark collaborator Jesse Rutherford on The Neighborhood, and “Tornado,” guitar chords glide like drops on a road. Stark’s dusty and resounding brooding voice is a master of restraint. But she’s also breaking into new territory, delivering a country anthem (“Lipstick”) and a dark disco track (“Pussycat”), across the album’s 11 tracks.
Front Doomed’s release, GQ spoke to Stark about finally releasing her debut LP, working with Jesse Rutherford, and drawing inspiration from Italian illustrators, Audrey Hepburn, and dictionaries.
GQ: How do you feel about releasing an album that’s been so long in the making?
Jesse Jo Stark: It’s random. I feel like time has just passed. I’ve always been the one that, if I got a show or something, I wouldn’t believe I was going to play it until I got on stage. I really don’t know how I feel and I’m so nervous, but I’m so excited. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.
You’ve been releasing music for a while, but an album will reach people who were previously unfamiliar with your record. How do you balance having songs that really appeal to you personally with songs that make a good impression on potential new fans?
I interpret each song as if it were a different mood of my day. I feel like we wake up in one mood and end up in another. Musically, I’m very inspired by a million different things, and I never felt like I belonged in a particular genre. I think it’s very frustrating for people because they really want to categorize you and make sure they understand what they’re listening to, but that was never my intention with my music. If I’m streaming an album, I want to fulfill every hobby that I have like wanting to dance or wanting to cry or scream. Some of the songs I have here are from six years ago. We added the last track “Trippin” exactly two weeks before the album was completed. I remember this demo that I had and I said, “This yes is final,” so then we add a double quote to round the whole record. It’s just not taking things too seriously and just saying, “These things seem right. This is what I want to play when I’m on stage. This really is me, at least right now. “
https://www.gq.com/story/jesse-jo-stark-doomed-interview Jesse Jo Stark on Her New Album ‘Doomed,’ Synthesizing Masculine and Feminine, and Connecting With Her Inner Child